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U.S. Department of State - Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Preview of President Obama's Travel to Vietnam and Japan

Daniel R. Russel
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs

Daniel Kritenbrink, Senior Director for Asian Affairs, National Security Council
Washington, DC
May 18, 2016

1:30 P.M. EDT


MODERATOR: Okay. Well, thank you very much and good afternoon. Welcome back the Foreign Press Centers, and a warm welcome to those in New York who are joining us as well. Very pleased to bring to you a briefing this afternoon, which is a preview of the President’s upcoming trip to Vietnam and to Japan. And our special guests today are National Security Council Senior Director for Asian Affairs Daniel Kritenbrink, and we have Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel.

Without further ado, I’ll turn the table over to Director Kritenbrink. Thank you.

MR KRITENBRINK: Thanks so much. Good afternoon, everyone. It’s great to be back here at the Foreign Press Center and it’s great to see all of you. I’d like to start by briefly walking you through the agenda for the President’s upcoming trip to Vietnam and Japan and then talk about a few of our primary objectives for the trip. Then, of course, I’ll ask my good friend and colleague, Assistant Secretary Russel, to highlight some of our diplomatic priorities.

Let me start by providing you with an overview of the trip. So the President will depart on Saturday, May 21, and head first for Hanoi for his first trip to Vietnam. In Hanoi, the President will begin with meetings and other events with Vietnam’s top leaders. He will be hosted by Vietnam’s President Quang, and we anticipate that he will have interactions with Vietnam’s other senior leaders, including General Secretary Trong. While in Hanoi, the President is also scheduled to deliver a speech on U.S.-Vietnam relations and to meet with members of civil society. The President will also travel to Ho Chi Minh City, where we anticipate the President will meet with members of the Young Southeast Asian Leadership Initiative, entrepreneurs, and the business community.

Following his visit to Vietnam, the President will depart for Japan and the G7 Summit, arriving late on May 25. The G7 meetings in Ise-Shima will take place on May 26-27 and will conclude early in the afternoon ofMay 27. While he is in Ise-Shima, we expect the President will also hold a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Abe.

Thereafter, the President will depart for Hiroshima. He will also stop to meet with servicemen and women at the Marine Air Corps Station in Iwakuni.

So that’s it for the agenda, but I also wanted to make a few general comments on how the trip fits into our overall engagement with the region. This trip reinforces the President’s commitment to the rebalance to Asia. It’ll be his 10th trip to the region as President, and it builds upon an already extensive record this year of engagement with the region, including the historic Sunnylands summit with ASEAN leaders in February, his trilateral meeting with Prime Minister Abe and President Park, as well as his meeting with President Xi on the margins of the Nuclear Security Summit in March, and of course, the visit of Australian Prime Minister Turnbull in January, not to mention his other conversations this year with other leaders in Asia, including new Burmese President U Htin Kyaw and the newly elected President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte.

This trip is a manifestation, we believe, of two key elements of the rebalance. First, building new partnerships with emerging powers in the region like Vietnam; and second, strengthening our treaty allies including with, of course, with Japan, which is at the heart of our Asian strategy.

Through the G7 meetings this year, we’ll also have a rare opportunity to focus the attention of the leaders of the world’s major economies on the central opportunities and challenges in this vital region.

Turning specifically to Vietnam, President Obama will be the third U.S. president to visit Vietnam since the normalization of diplomatic relations just over 20 years ago, following President Bush’s 2006 trip to Vietnam as part of APEC and President Clinton’s historic trip to Vietnam in 2000. The President will discuss with Vietnam’s leaders ways for the U.S.-Vietnam comprehensive partnership to advance cooperation across a wide range of areas, including on economic, people-to-people, security, human rights, and global and regional issues. Through his official meetings and public engagements, the President will highlight the depth and breadth of our partnership and the remarkable progress that our two countries have made in recent years.

On economic cooperation, the Trans-Pacific Partnership highlights both the progress and the potential for our economic relationship with Vietnam. TPP’s economic and strategic implications, as well as its ability to drive reform within Vietnam on a range of issues, is part of our ambitious agenda. We also hope to highlight some possible commercial deals during the visit, which would demonstrate the extraordinary benefits of our economic engagement.

On security cooperation, one of the defining characteristics of our 21st century partnership with Vietnam is our shared commitment to advancing a rules-based order in the Asia Pacific where countries can pursue their objectives peacefully and in accordance with international law. Our military-to-military relationship covers many issues from humanitarian assistance and disaster relief cooperation to peacekeeping. We look forward to continuing our conversations with Vietnam’s leaders about how we can partner with Vietnam to enhance its maritime security capabilities.

On people-to-people ties and our education cooperation, that cooperation has helped build trust and understanding between our two countries and peoples. Vietnam has more students studying at U.S. universities than any other Southeast Asian country, and nearly 12,000 Vietnamese are members of the YSEALI program. These numbers show that young – the young people of Vietnam are more eager – are eager for more engagement with the United States, and that provides a strong foundation for our growing relationship for decades to come.

Even as our partnership continues to expand and deepen, human rights has been and will continue to be a central element of our bilateral relationship with Vietnam. As with other parts of our relationship, we’ve made important progress, yet challenges obviously remain and we will acknowledge and address forthrightly those differences. We want to see a strong, prosperous, and independent Vietnam, a Vietnam that respects human rights and the rule of law. We believe this will allow Vietnam to best contribute to regional stability and enable its people to reach their fullest potential. Real progress on protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, including through legal reform, is crucial to ensuring that Vietnam and our relationship achieves its full potential.

Finally, on cooperation to address regional and global challenges, we think this is an area where we see great – the great breadth and tremendous growth of our cooperation and the potential in our bilateral relationship for years to come. We’re cooperating on everything from health, nonproliferation, climate change, to peacekeeping and wildlife trafficking. And again, I think these areas of cooperation exemplify the broad-based nature of our cooperation under our comprehensive partnership. All these areas of cooperation and the progress we’ve made over the past 20 years have set a strong foundation for what we can achieve in the next 20 years and beyond.

Turning to Japan, the G7 meetings in Ise-Shima will focus on a number of key issues. The leaders will discuss a range of topics of mutual interesting, including the global economy, climate, foreign policy issues, trade, terrorism, migration flows, and the situation in Ukraine. Prime Minister Abe has also designed an agenda that will include discussion of issues particular to Asia, including our efforts to address the North Korea threat and maritime security issues. He’s also invited a number of Asian leaders as outreach partners, which provides further opportunities for discussion.

The President, as I mentioned, will also meet bilaterally with Prime Minister Abe. This will be a tremendous opportunity to further advance our close alliance, including our cooperation on economy and security issues as well as a host of global challenges.

Finally, the President will conclude the trip to Japan with an historic trip to Hiroshima. I expect the visit will be rather brief and focused on a forward-looking vision related to our shared future. He will not give a major address, but rather the President will offer a short set of remarks reflecting on his visit.

The President’s time in Hiroshima will reaffirm America’s longstanding commitment and the President’s personal commitment to pursue the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. This visit will offer an opportunity to honor the memory of all innocents who were lost during the war.

Finally, the visit will also symbolize how far the United States and Japan have come in building a deep and abiding alliance based on mutual interests, shared values, and an enduring spirit of friendship between our peoples.

Finally, as part of his visit to Hiroshima, the President will also visit our Air Station at Iwakuni, which will serve as an opportunity to honor the sacrifice of our men and women in uniform who are working so hard to keep the Asia Pacific regionable – the Asia Pacific region peaceful and secure today.

So let me conclude there, and with that I’ll turn it over to Assistant Secretary Russel for his opening comments. Thank you.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY RUSSEL: Thank you, Dan. Thanks, everyone. This really is a historic trip, and you will see important firsts as the President travels and you’ll see also the forward-looking nature of his engagement with Vietnam and with Japan. Under the rebalance we’ve promoted an extraordinary reconciliation with two former enemies. You’ll see that on this visit, as the President visits two nations with whom we’ve fought bitter wars, that we’ve now built an extraordinary record of cooperation and of partnership.

More broadly, we’ve rejuvenated the network of longstanding alliances and partnerships in the Asia Pacific, just as we’ve built new security partnerships and economic partnerships. We’ve welcomed and supported the transformation in Myanmar, and in fact, Secretary Kerry will visit Myanmar before joining the President in Vietnam. We’ve developed stronger relations not only with Vietnam but throughout Southeast Asia. We’re working closely with Laos as it chairs ASEAN this year, and we’re working to support and foster the growth and unity of ASEAN as a center of the region’s developing institutional architecture.

So that’s the important context for the President’s visit to Vietnam, for our relationship with Vietnam. Vietnam obviously is a partner in the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Vietnam is a partner in upholding the Law of the Sea and the rule of law in maritime space, in resolving peacefully the tensions and disputes in the South China Sea. Vietnam is a partner in sustaining the important Mekong River as a source of livelihood to millions of people and multiple nations that line its banks.

It is the President’s first visit to Vietnam. It’s the first presidential visit in almost a decade, as you just heard. And that’s significant in its own right, but more important is the fact that the visit signifies the substantial progress that we’ve made in this relationship. And as Dan just mentioned, we’re getting real work done. Clearly, stronger bilateral relations with this dynamic country of 90 million people, which is an increasingly important partner for us on a whole range of issues, benefits both nations.

I’d note also that Vietnam in many ways brings Americans together in the sense that even in our current political season, there’s strong bipartisan agreement on the importance of facing the past, moving to the future, and strengthening our relationship with Vietnam. And I think that past, present, and future is the right framework for thinking about what we are doing and what the President is doing in and with Vietnam.

To address the past, we’re helping Vietnam deal with the legacies of the war, including unexploded ordnance, including remediation of dioxin. In the present, Dan laid out a range of important areas where we are working together at a global level, at a regional level. And to build a brighter future, we’re making preparations to fully implement TPP, which brings significant benefits to both countries in the region. We’re working together to promote human rights and support important legal reforms in Vietnam. And we’re working together to expand people-to-people ties. We’re investing in Vietnam’s youth through programs like the Young Southeast Asia Leaders Initiative, YSEALI, and the Fulbright University.

Now, the President’s visited Japan three times already since he’s been in office, but let me add something to what Dan just said about the visit to Hiroshima. I personally have visited Hiroshima. I’ve been to the peace memorial, including when I accompanied Secretary Kerry there last month. It’s a powerful experience. It’s a sobering experience. It’s a humbling experience. As Secretary Kerry said it, it reminds us of the indisputable truth that war must be a last resort, that it’s the deep obligation of every person in a position of responsibility to work for peace, and there’s no person with a greater responsibility than President Obama. There’s no person who has done more to work for peace than the President of the United States.

Thank you.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Assistant Secretary. With that, we are open for questions. I kindly ask for you to state your name and your outlet before we begin, and for those in New York, please come to the podium and we will be able to select you for a question as well.

Yes, sir, in the center.

QUESTION: Thank you, sir, for doing this. My name is Ching-Yi Chang with Shanghai Media Group. Rumor has it that United States might very likely lift the ban on arms sales to Vietnam. So can we expect there will be any announcement by the President soon? And also, can we expect any sort of mention on South China Sea in the potential G7 statement? Thank you.

MR KRITENBRINK: Why don’t I take the initial stab at those? On the question about the lethal weapons ban, this is an issue --

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR KRITENBRINK: Can you – is my mike on? Can you hear me now?

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR KRITENBRINK: Okay. On the issue of the lethal weapons ban, this is an issue that comes up periodically, of course. I would just remind our friends that in 2014, we enacted a partial lift of the ban to allow for the sale of maritime-related security articles. And as we made clear at that time, all of those sales are reviewed on a case-by-case basis, and that human rights considerations are a part of that process. And I think it’s fair to say, as I mentioned in my remarks, that human rights considerations will remain a central element to our relationship going forward. But I don’t have anything further for you on the subject of the ban.

On the South China Sea and the G7, I think what I would say is this: I think it’s only natural that important security issues such as maritime security are an issue of interest to the leaders of the G7. I know that the G7 foreign ministers, when they met, they discussed the issue and that was part of their statement. And I would think it’s only natural that that would be discussed at the leader level as well, so I’m confident that it will be addressed in the context of the G7.

MODERATOR: Okay, thank you for the questions. Yes, ma’am.

QUESTION: I am Chia-Hui with TVBS of Taiwan. A question on Taiwan: You know the president-elect of Taiwan is going to be inaugurated this Friday. And we have seen some actions from the Chinese side like re-establish – re-establishing the diplomatic relations with Gambia and also demanding that Taiwan is going to recognize 1992 consensus in “one China” principle. Do you think these are – how these actions like this will affect the future U.S.-Taiwan cross-strait relations?

MR KRITENBRINK: I guess what I would say on this is the United States continues to make clear to our friends in both Taipei and Beijing that we’re going to maintain our very consistent “one China” policy based on both the three joint communiques and the Taiwan Relations Act. We – as you know, we are sending an unofficial delegation to the inauguration in Taipei, and the purpose of that unofficial delegation is to again emphasize our commitment to the importance of our unofficial relations with Taiwan, to congratulate the people of Taiwan on a successful democratic election, and to also underscore again America’s interest in maintaining cross-strait peace and stability. And again, we have emphasized to parties on both sides of the strait our interest in the maintenance of peace and stability and our hope that both sides will continue to show flexibility going forward in the name of maintaining that peace and stability.

QUESTION: A follow-up?

MODERATOR: Yes, ma’am, in the red.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. Jennifer Chen with Shenzhen Media Group. Follow-up about the arms ban. I just wonder, will the – if the arms embargo is lifted, does it mean Vietnam will actually be permitted to purchase specific items, and what will be the actual content?

Also, the newly elected president of the Philippines recently said publicly many times that he’s willing to consult with China on the South China Sea. What is the response from the U.S. perspective?

Last, the Pentagon recently released a report on China’s military power. What is the motivation behind the Pentagon’s statement against Taiwan’s independence, especially before Dr. Tsai Ing-wen’s inaugural speech? What message is the U.S. trying to send to China? Thank you very much.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY RUSSEL: Okay, three for one. (Laughter.) I think I forget the first question now.

MR KRITENBRINK: Go ahead. First one was lethal weapons ban, second was the president of the Philippines.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY RUSSEL: Oh yeah, right, right.

So the ban on weapon sales to Vietnam was partially lifted in 2014, as Dan just earlier described. The State Department has a process under U.S. law and regulations to evaluate any request that is made for sales on a case-by-case basis, and there is a process that includes consideration of human rights and the potential for any given weapons system being used in ways that could support domestic police or other non-military purposes. So this is something that we would look at very carefully in any event based on any future requests by the Vietnamese.

Now, it’s important to note that the partial lifting of the ban as pertains to maritime defense articles hasn’t resulted in an opening of floodgates. So I think that the messages that we as the U.S. Government made at the time of the partial lift in 2014 remain relevant, in effect, and apply in the event that the Vietnamese were to request certain systems.

With regard to the Philippines, the United States encourages and welcomes dialogue among the claimants. So in that respect, the statement of the presumptive president-elect of the Philippines is consistent with the important prospect for diplomatic engagement and the peaceful resolution of differences among the countries in Southeast Asia through dialogue. But it in no way contradicts or undermines the legitimacy of any country availing themselves of appropriate legal mechanisms as well, a right that all 10 ASEAN countries have repeatedly reaffirmed.

And with regard to the Pentagon’s report on military power, China’s military power – Dan, you may want to add something – but this is an annual report legislated by Congress that provides an update of analysis. There is no change to U.S. policy and this is not a vehicle for telegraphing any potential change in our policy.

MODERATOR: Okay. Questions? Then go to New York, please.

QUESTION: (In progress) Mehta. I am a syndicated journalist. My question would be directed at Mr. Russel. This is in regard to the TPP. As you know, we have been getting all kinds of comments from the presumptive presidential candidates, who have expressed opposition to the TPP. And this is sending all kinds of confusing signals to your partners in Asia Pacific. First of all, you were also recently in Malaysia, for example. What was the reaction of the Malaysian hosts, and what did you tell them in regard to the TPP?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY RUSSEL: Well, I can speak for the current Administration not a future administration and not for the Malaysians. And I know that I’m speaking for this Administration when I say that from the President to the Secretary of State to the U.S. Trade Representative on down, we are absolutely committed to seeing the agreement through to full ratification, as are all of our partners. The fact of the matter is that Malaysia has something of a jump on us in terms of approving the deal. And when the President visits Vietnam, I have no doubt that TPP and TPP implementation will be an issue for discussion.

What TPP allows us to do, in Vietnam for example, is to enable our small and medium enterprises to do business in places that up until now they haven’t been able to engage. It opens an important market for us by securing necessary protections of intellectual property by securing transparency, and of course, it also strengthens labor standards; it promotes good environmental practices. And I think that Vietnam is a showcase for the benefits that accrue to the United States as well as to Vietnam from this agreement.

MODERATOR: Okay, we had a question here on the left. No, the gentleman behind had a question.

QUESTION: Hi, this is Yuichiro Nishigaki from Jiji Press. I’d like to make a simple question about President’s visit to Hiroshima. And what I’d like to know is what he – what President Obama is going to do in Hiroshima in detail? And especially, is he going to have a meeting with the atomic bomb survivors? That’s my question. Thank you.

MR KRITENBRINK: Sure. No, thank you very much for that. I simply don’t have the details of what he’s going to do, and we don’t have that all worked out yet. But as I mentioned, the President made this decision with the intent of going to Hiroshima to honor all those who were lost during the war, including all those lost in Hiroshima, to demonstrate his commitment to working towards a world without nuclear weapons, and also, as I said, to highlight the amazing progress that we’ve made in our alliance since then.

The message is going to, again, be directed toward honoring all of those lost in the war and on those larger objectives, including working towards a world without nuclear weapons. And everything he will do will be designed to further that objective. I think what we have in mind is a fairly simple, dignified ceremony to do so, but we have not – again, we have not worked out all of the details.



ASSISTANT SECRETARY RUSSEL: -- that both Secretary Kerry, when he visited on the margins of the G7, and I’m sure President Obama are marking through the visit to the Peace Memorial, visit to Hiroshima, our deep respect, their deep respect for all of those who lost their lives, for all of those who suffered in the atomic bombings, in the war, in all theaters, and it’s important to remember that many tens of thousands of Japanese lives were lost in the bombings, many, many Korean lives were lost, the lives of other Asians, and importantly, of U.S. POWs were also lost. And I think that we shouldn’t lose sight of the larger message of respect for the terrible cost of war.

MODERATOR: Okay. Yes, sir, in the center.

MR KRITENBRINK: Could I just --

MODERATOR: Oh, sorry.

MR KRITENBRINK: -- one additional comment I’d like to make. I think as I noted in my opening remarks, the President will make remarks while he’s on the site at the Peace Memorial Park. He doesn’t intend to give a speech, but he does intend to give several minutes of remarks to reflect on the issues that we’ve raised here today, and I wanted to make sure to mention that to you as well.

MODERATOR: Okay, in the center, and then I saw Andrei afterwards.

QUESTION: Thank you so much. Atsushi Okudera with Asahi Shimbun. Thank you. Thank you for doing this. I have a question for two of you, particularly Secretary Russel. I believe you have been – both of you have been very supportive and recommended the President visit to Hiroshima for a long time. From your experience in Japan and the long-time experience working for U.S.-Japan relations, could you share your thought with us why it’s important – you think it’s important for President to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki as well in the future, and how it is important to both countries’ relations? That’s the first question.

The second one is a quick one. It’s: Do you think the controversial issue, including the decision of the dropping atomic bomb 71 years ago, is coming up – will be spotlighted after President visit this time, or in the future? Thank you so much.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY RUSSEL: Well – I’m sorry. I’ll start, very briefly. The reason I’m going to turn the question over to Dan is because this is not about what we think. This is about what the President think. And I remember as early as 2009 the President saying very clearly in an interview with Japanese media that he would be honored to become the first U.S. president to visit Hiroshima. It’s important because, as the President has said, we have a commitment and a responsibility to lead the world toward a better future and, as I said earlier, to mark respect for all those who lost their lives and suffered in the war. The purpose of the visit is not to re-litigate issues of the past; it’s to build a better future.

MR KRITENBRINK: That’s exceptionally well said, and there’s not much I can add to that. Maybe just one or two points. I think the President made this decision personally to go now. I think he said he felt like this was the right time to go. I think if you look at the work of our outstanding ambassador in Tokyo, Caroline Kennedy, she has visited, and I think her predecessor did as well. And I think those visits helped lay this foundation. I thought Secretary Kerry’s visit just a few weeks ago was also very helpful and deeply meaningful to people.

This is likely to be the President’s last trip to Japan. Given his work on the issue of working towards a world without nuclear weapons, given what I’ve said the lead-up to this event, I think he felt like this was the right time. It’s a visit designed to send messages that are universal, that we’ve talked about here today. But clearly, there’s a bilateral element to it as well. And I think we want to demonstrate we’re prepared to squarely address these difficult historical issues, and in doing so, I think the important thing is to celebrate how far we’ve come and where we can go in the future. And I do think it’s remarkable to think from the time that the atomic bomb was dropped to today, look at where we’ve come and what we’ve achieved. Look at how close our two countries are. We’re the closest of allies. Look how close our peoples are.

I think this is a deeply meaningful event on a number of levels, and the President thought now was the right time to do so. And I couldn’t agree more with what Danny said as well. The President has made clear we are not revisiting the decision made at the time. This is not designed to be a visit that causes people to focus on the past. It’s designed, again, to focus us on the future, and I’m confident that’s what the President will achieve by going there.

MODERATOR: And we have Andrei next and then we’ll go to New York after.

QUESTION: Thank you. My name is Andrei Sitov. I’m a Russian reporter here in Washington, D.C. I’m with TASS. Thank you to you gentlemen for doing this and for – to our friends at the FPC for hosting this, as usual.

Secretary Russel, the – we live in a globalized world, so the Russians will be hosting their own summit with the ASEAN the day after tomorrow. So I was wondering how this summit is viewed from Washington. And for you, as a specialist in the region, what will be the first thing you’ll be looking for when you look at the results of that? Thank you.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY RUSSEL: Well, the first thing I always look for coming out of a summit is whether the leaders were able to say what they wanted to say in a communique that’s – comes in under two pages. (Laughter.) And as Winston Churchill famously said, he didn’t have time to write a short letter. It’s hard to do. And what will, I think, matter is the degree to which there is a meeting of the minds between the Russian Federation, the Russian leadership, and the 10 Southeast Asian countries about the future of the region and the right kind of architecture.

Now, the ASEANs have championed an institutional architecture in East Asia that is built around the East Asia Summit, of which Russia and now the – and the United States are both members. We joined in the same year. The East Asia Summit is a unique forum that allows us to engage substantively on pressing security and political issues that affect all of us. It would certainly be my hope that the Sochi summit creates a platform for the ASEANs and Russia to pursue that discussion built on a commitment to rule of law and the stable global order.

I had the opportunity to spend some time with your deputy foreign minister, Igor Morgulov, at a recent senior officials meeting of the East Asia Summit countries in Laos. We exchanged views and I gave him at least the benefit of my experience in organizing the U.S.-ASEAN summit, and I hope it was helpful.

MODERATOR: Okay, we’ll go to New York, please. (Inaudible.) Over in New York, do we have a question? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Gina di Meo, ANSA. Talking about re-addressing the past, since he’s going to Ho Chi Minh, is there going to be any mention to the Vietnam War?

MR KRITENBRINK: Well, sure. I think it’s natural that in the context of the President’s visit to Vietnam there will also be a dynamic of not dwelling on the past, but recognizing the past and celebrating our ability to overcome that and make progress today. And I think Assistant Secretary Russel did a good job at the top of his remarks talking about some of the analogous nature of the two trips from that perspective.

Again, as I tried to mention at the top, this is now – we’re in the 21st year of our normalized relations with Vietnam. I think it’s impressive, if not breathtaking, to think about how far we’ve come, the progress that we’ve made between our two peoples, between our two governments, and the fact that we’re now cooperating on a broad range of issues that I outlined in my remarks – on everything from our economic and trade relationship to our military relationship, and increasingly on regional and global issues, from climate change to global health. But again, we have to squarely recognize the history that we share, some of which is very painful. We have to recognize the great sacrifice of our peoples on both sides that helped bring us here today.

And in that context, I think it would be important for me to recognize that last week my boss, the National Security Advisor, Ambassador Susan Rice, had an important meeting with various U.S. veteran service organizations. I thought it was a very powerful and successful meeting. And in that meeting, Ambassador Rice was able to explain to our veterans organizations the reasons why we’re conducting this trip, what our objectives are, what we hope to achieve going forward. But she also emphasized we’ll never forget the sacrifices of our veterans and the great contributions that they’ve made, and that that’s a – is what in many ways has allowed us to achieve what we’ve achieved today.

MODERATOR: I think we have time for one or two questions. What do you think?

MR KRITENBRINK: Let’s be risky and do two.

MODERATOR: Let’s be risky and do two. Lady on the right, please, in the blue.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. My name is Nike Ching from Voice of America. Thank you so much for the thorough preview. My question is regarding Vietnam. Is that a state visit by President Obama? And then to clarify the lift of arms embargo, is human rights the sticking point of the consideration? And separately, does – is there any plan from the President and Secretary to meet with some of the human rights activist? What is U.S. planning to raise concerns on human right issues – in particular, some of the prominent case? Thank you.

MR KRITENBRINK: Let me take your questions in order, if I can. Our Vietnamese hosts have told us that it will be a state visit. On the issue of lethal weapons ban in relationship to human rights, I think we tried to mention throughout our briefing here today that human rights will remain an important, if not central element to our relationship going forward, full stop. And also, that human rights considerations will remain an important feature of whatever arm sales decisions we may or may not make with our Vietnamese partners.

And then on the broader issue of whether the President intends to address issues of human rights and meet with civil society representatives, as I did mention, the President does intend to meet with members of Vietnamese civil society while he is in Vietnam. We think it’s very important to do so. And as the President does everywhere that he travels around the world, he meets with nongovernmental organizations, civil society representatives, and he emphasizes the important role that these groups play throughout the world. And I’m confident that the President will mention both publicly and in private the importance that we place on human rights. And as I mentioned, we think this is an important issue for all countries to address. It’s an issue – and making progress on these issues I think will allow both the Vietnamese people and our bilateral relationship to reach their full potential.

MODERATOR: We’ll try in the back. Yes, sir, in the center.

QUESTION: Thank you. Let me ask you a quick question: Can you tell me whether Mr. President Obama will stop at the Korean victims memorial during his Hiroshima visit? Thank you.

MR KRITENBRINK: Well, as I mentioned earlier, I don’t have all the details of exactly what the President will do while he’s on the ground in Hiroshima. But I do want to underscore the point that I think Assistant Secretary Russel made very well a moment ago. The President is conducting this visit in large part to honor the memory of all of those lost during the war, and those lost in the bombing. And the historical record will show that in addition to the tens of thousands of Japanese who died in the bombing, there were also many thousands of Koreans who died in the bombing. There were many other Asians from China, Southeast Asia as well, and there were also several Westerners who died in the bombing as well as I – as we stated, approximately a dozen American POWs.

So that history is clear to all of us, and when the President goes, when we say that he intends to honor the memory of all of those who were lost, we mean just that. And whatever activities he conducts while he was – while he is there, again, one central purpose is to honor the memory of all of those who were lost.

MODERATOR: Thank you. That concludes our briefing for the afternoon. Thank you again Director Kritenbrink and Assistant Secretary Russel. Have a good day.


MR KRITENBRINK: Thanks, everyone.

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